Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-6

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Dominant Acts Expressed (Buss 1981)


Aggression; Power; Sex differences; Status


Psychological research suggests men and women employ sex-specific strategies for expressing dominance, and dominant acts are perceived differently based on the sex of the actor. The nature of sex differences in dominance-based behavior, variation in personality and dominance, and ethnographic accounts of dominance in leadership positions are discussed.


The role of dominance in the formation of hierarchy is an ancestral feature of social organization humans share with nonhuman primates as well as social animals generally. As a strategy for achieving influence, dominance is likely a cross-cultural universal, yet there are stark sex differences and cultural variation in the universal expression of dominance.

Dominance consists of gaining authority through the use of coercion, fear, aggression, or agonistic threats by social superiors to subordinates (Cheng et al. 2010; Henrich and Gil-White 2001). Patterns of deference ...

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